The Chinese man who owns the dry cleaners helped me carry my clothes to the car today. He scolded me for laying the garments on the back seat. (I make one large dry cleaning trip per year, which means transporting a score of shirts, a dozen pairs of pants, and various sundries. I typically stack this mound on the back seat.) “Hang like this,” he said, demonstrating the proper method.
“This your first time here?” he asked, looking at me as if I were a novice at the whole clothes-cleaning thing.
“Second,” I told him.
He nodded and stroked one of my shirts. “Good quality clothes,” he told me, which left me wondering: what does this mean? Despite my wife’s opinion, is my taste in clothing impeccable? Or — and I fear this to be the truth — do I have the same fashion sense as an elderly Chinese man? Does the dry cleaner guy also buy his clothes at Costco?
On the drive home, I decided it might be fun to be a dry cleaner, but an immoral dry cleaner. Imagine! I would never have to shop for clothes again. I would have an entire store filled with garments from which to draw my wardrobe. A nice dinner out? This shirt looks perfect, and it’s not due to be picked up until next Tuesday! Some people fantasize of stealing cars or robbing banks; I dream of borrowing other people’s clothes. (Especially woolen clothes!) My evil-o-meter just doesn’t go very high, I guess.
At home, I stopped to speak with the neighbor across the street. He was wearing a t-shirt which proclaimed in large type: GET IN THE BOAT. John is a retired teacher. He spends his autumns in Oak Grove, but he winters in New Zealand, and then spends the bulk of the year on his boat in Alaska. Today he told me all about his boat generator and how he wants a new one. (“There’s a new Honda model that produces a regular sine wave,” he said. “You can even plug a computer into it!”)
John turned the conversation to my car, and as usual I bemoaned the sorry lot of my Ford Focus. It’s just not the right car for me, and yet I’m not likely to get a new car any time soon. I’m a “drive it til it’s dead” kind of guy.
“Keep the oil changed, and it’ll last forever,” he said.
“Oh, I keep it changed,” I said. “I change it every five thousand miles.”
John shook his head. “That’s not often enough,” he said. “You need to change it every three thousand miles.” He frowned, then turned and walked away. I wanted to protest: for twenty years, I’ve changed my vehicles’ oil every five thousand miles. I’ve never had any trouble! I take care of my cars! I felt I’d failed some crucial test of manhood, as if I’d fallen in his sight.
As I walked to the mailbox (carrying three bundles of dry cleaning), John stopped at his front door: he turned to smile at me and wave.
I spent my evening skimming the library books I’ve had checked out since July: Cooking By Hand, Slow Food, The Elements of Taste, The User’s Guide to the Brain, The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told. I soaked in a hot tub and browsed. Then I sat in bed and browsed. I still feel sick, so I went to sleep early, my C-PAP mask and my eyecover dutifully in place.
Kris woke me from a light doze. “You have to listen to this,” she said, handing me the telephone. Jenn had left voice mail earlier in the evening that went something like this (the following is a reconstruction, not a transcriptioin — Jenn is the narrator):
Harrison came up to me tonight and asked for a bath. “You don’t need a bath,” I told him. “You’re already clean. You had a bath last night.” Harrison whined. “Please. You don’t have to wash me. I just want to soak in the tub. It’s so relaxing.” “Alright, J.D.” I said. Harrison laughed and said, “Good one, Kris!”
Maybe this is only funny for the Gingeriches and the Roth-Gates. It’s pretty funny, though. Now I need to go back to sleep.